In January we discussed how the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to include women’s ski jump in the Winter Olympic Games is a gross example of sexism. Last week, IOC president Jacques Rogge may have come down with another case of foot in mouth syndrome, this time targeting women’s hockey.
On the day of the women’s hockey gold medal contest, Rogge threatened the sport’s continuation in the Olympics, citing a lack of depth. The IOC president ominously warned, “We cannot continue without improvement.” The problem he sees is that two teams, U.S.A. and Canada, continuously dominate the competition. Rogge has proposed to allow another four to eight years for the sport to spread or else it will be cut. This gives the sport 20 years (it was introduced into the Olympics in 1998) to spread across the globe, a fraction of the time to build that men’s hockey had. For nearly 40 years the Canadians won all but two gold medals in men’s hockey. This is not gender equality. This is not the IOC giving women’s hockey a real shot at developing.
Four-time Olympian Angela Ruggiero, recently elected by her peers to the IOC’s athletes’ commission, sees the disparity. “Just giving our sport more time to develop is the important thing,” she said. “A lot of sports have had that opportunity. Certainly on the men’s side there was a long growth period from the ‘20s and the ‘30s to what you’re seeing now and how competitive that sport is right now.”
Interestingly, the official website of the Olympics reports that women’s hockey is a “hit”. The article also quotes Rogge as saying, “Women’s hockey is a young sport…, But no doubt in the future, women’s hockey will be a hit.” Oh really, Mr. Rogge? Might this be an attempt to remove your foot from your mouth and give these phenomenal athletes the respect they deserve?